Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business

Exclusive Interview: Anne Smith, Director of Touch Reprographics

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Anne Smith, Director of Touch Reprographics tells Business News Wales about her role and about being Executive Coach, Mentor and Public speaker at Amyas Coaching.

Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role at Touch Reprographics

Director of Touch reprographics studio and Accredited Executive Coach, Mentor and public Speaker  at Amyas Coaching

Touch was set up in 2011 by Eric and Anne Smith because they both wanted to give something back to society. They saw this as an ideal way to support young people into work and are very proud of the fact that each of the current workforces was either unemployed or under redundancy notice.

While Touch is run on a commercial basis, it was set up to support the ethical and social ethos of Anne and Eric Smith, and they continue to look for new and exciting ways to positively influence those they employ, their clients and the community they live in, so:

  • Employees become family
  • Individuals enter as clients and leave as friends

The result is that Touch is much much more than a reprographic studio. That’s because here at Touch, we like to keep everyone happy. Our team enjoy learning new techniques to create high-quality products using environmentally friendly materials, all at an affordable price. No matter how big or small the project, we understand your needs and won’t stop until we exceed your expectations.

Touch now offers:

  • Internship opportunities, whereby newly qualified individuals can come and work with the team to hone their skills and more.
  • Coaching and Mentoring; Anne Smith lists among her many qualifications Executive Coaching and Mentoring (ILM level 7), in addition to Leadership and Personal Development Post Graduate Certificate, from Harvard University.
    This expertise is used to support several individuals who work with Touch on a freelance basis while being supported by Anne and Eric to build Businesses. Anne also offers support and Mentoring to many other new start up business and organisations.
  • Work experience opportunities, in collaboration with other organisations Touch are keen to offer placements to the longer term unemployed as a vehicle for them to find a path to work opportunities.
  • Touch is currently investigation ways of supporting Military Charities and ex-service personnel.

We also offer our staff apprenticeships and the opportunity to train under skilled professionals, as well as working with graduate placement schemes such as Jobs Growth Wales. We believe in our team and their abilities, and want to offer them full training and vast opportunities to enhance their skills and fulfil their potential.

This arsenal of skills means we can produce a wide range of products, from wedding stationery to bound dissertations, printed music and film scores for orchestras, marketing materials for businesses as well as window vinyl, posters and much much more. We are home to some pretty amazingly talented web developers and graphic designers. There’s not much we can’t do!

Our business is run ethically, with a strong social ethos – in other words, we are good to our customers, good to our staff and good for our planet. We use FSC products where possible and try to recycle what we can – which is currently around 80—90% of our waste. We make sure we benefit the community by working with charities and social enterprises, particularly the Salvation Army where our very own Eric is bandmaster.

At Touch, we pride ourselves on our friendly and professional way of working. We take the time to understand your needs, fine-tuning and managing projects from initial concepts right through to the finished product. We have a huge list of products and services, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for on this list, get in touch, we may still be able to find a way to help!

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

To continue to grow touch reprographic studio, while expanding Amyas coaching and help as many people as possible to be successful

Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently? 

Looking back at my career path, I find myself reflecting on the decisions I made or actions I didn’t take along the way.

 I would have started my the business sooner. There is nothing like the challenge of it – the energy, the motivation of building up your own organization.  Hiring people and giving them an opportunity to prosper.  I also thrive on controlling a bit of my own destiny. If the notion of starting your own business is strong and you’ve got that fire in your belly – let me tell you: go for it. Do it. Because you may be looking over your shoulder regretting you didn’t take the leap.

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?

Leadership: First and foremost, the owner of a successful business functions as a businessperson. This means that the owner is engaged, accountable and drives performance by paying attention to the business.

Business Culture: The culture of a business represents the collective behaviour of its leaders and employees. Businesses that possess well-defined cultures stand out from the crowd because they’re a joy to interact with. Great business cultures require leadership, systems, training, coaching, accountability and commitment.

Financial Literacy: Financial literacy is a non-negotiable skill in business. This doesn’t mean that the owner needs to be an accountant or have the skills of a bookkeeper, but it does mean that the owner knows how to read and understand financial reports and use them to make the best possible business decisions. More importantly, the owner is capable of building a cash-flow plan to project service and retail sales goals complete with a budget to manage expenses.. Successful businesses learn and master the skills to be financially responsible in order to ensure that they will have enough fuel to achieve their goals.

Structure and Systems: If your intent is to grow a dynamic, efficient, quality-driven business, structure is non-negotiable. Structure ensures efficiency, productivity, consistency and predictability. Systems produce predictable results. Lack of structure and the absence of systems all but ensure inconsistency in how work is done, conflicting agendas, dissension, stagnancy and, worst of all, uncertainty. Call it leadership, accountability, systems, standards of performance, or policies and procedures; it all refers to the structure that supports success. Anything less than a deliberate and structured approach to business infuses mediocrity into all activities. Mediocrity never wins in business.

 Skill development: Success is the result of acquiring knowledge and mastering the skills to use that knowledge to the best of your ability. A commitment to training and education is non-negotiable and the ultimate measurement of a company’s commitment to training and education is found in its client retention rate Skill development is an investment in your brand and quality assurance. “Getting better” is a company value.

 Everyone sells: When it comes to the topic of “selling,” there is always a “love/hate” relationship. The “love” part is that selling is what every business is all about. Everyone recognizes this. The “hate” part is best summed up by the fact that not all people are comfortable with the concept of “selling.” Some people are natural at it while others feel their gut twisting when in close proximity to a sales situation. The process of selling is just like producing a hit Broadway show. There are writers, choreographers, set designers, lighting and sound technicians, an orchestra … and the actors. The applause and success is earned by the collective efforts of all. It doesn’t matter what an individual’s role is in a company … his or her paycheck depends on the company’s collective ability to sell.

Work environment: Success has a Look – everything about the facility should communicate and support its brand identity. Every piece of equipment should work. Lighting fixtures should be functioning. Walls, décor, posters, pictures, bathrooms and dressing rooms should be spotless. Reception areas should look organized and professional. Dress for success applies to work environments too.

Compensation: Compensation is perhaps one of the most hotly debated topics for owners and leaders. Commission, Team-Based Pay, fixed rate, sliding scales, product/service charges, or independent contractor – there is no one right way that will serve the needs of all. But when all the debating is done, a compensation program must achieve three goals:

  1. Inspire and reward the right performance and behaviours: If you keep rewarding performance and behaviour you don’t like … you continue to enable that behaviour. Commission-based pay is notorious for rewarding individual sales while paying for performance and behaviours you don’t want.
    2. Fit the financial reality of the business: There are only 100 pennies in a pound. Whenever payroll exceeds a company’s financial reality, it instantly initiates a cash crisis that, if left unchecked, can be destructive and even kill the company.
    3. Provide income growth for employees: The best companies provide employees with growth paths for income and achieving their full potential. It is up to both parties to make it work.

 Brand Identity: When it comes to brand identity, businesses fall into one of three categories: nondescript, blends in, or stands out from the competition. Nondescript businesses are just bland places. There’s nothing about the facility, signage, logo, print materials, service or personality that makes the “wow” meter show signs of movement. There’s nothing overly special. Businesses with strong brand identities send the “wow” meter flying into the success zone. It’s a complete package, from web site, print materials and phone experiences to its facility, décor, team personality, execution of work and all those special touches that radiate success. Each and every one of the previous eight success characteristics must rate high in order for a strong brand identity to emerge and endure.

 Community Service: The true character of a successful company is defined by how it gives back to the community. Community service comes in many forms, from fundraising to employees donating personal time to a worthy cause. Business success simply does not appear complete if it’s all about making money and generating profit. A business, no matter how profitable or magnificent, is never truly successful without a warm heart and sincere compassion for the wellbeing of others.

What are your top three tips for success?

Choose a goal that makes the world a better place, whatever that means to you. Don’t worry so much about how it’s all going to work out, put that energy into your work. Learn to self-assess effectively,

Understand your strengths and your weaknesses, and play to your strengths. There is no need to convince anyone that your idea is a good one. They either will get it, or they won’t and the synergy that comes from the people that share your vision will be the ones that matter most to you. There is no substitute for hard work, but allow it to happen in cycles. Sometimes you need to work 18 hours a day, and that is ok, but other times you can back off a little, and let the ideas come to you, rather than you chasing them down all the time.

Be patient. Good businesses take time to build, and you don’t need to worry about when it will happen, just focus on making it happen. Bubbles come and go, but the fundamentals don’t change. Building great companies stand the test of time and will overcome adversity. Sometimes they will even thrive from the adversity .Look for the synergies in life, nature and business. Look for the exceptions, not the patterns and look to create a new paradigm, rather than extending the status quo.

Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?

Innovation is one of our key drivers for economic growth and job creation.

We need to be thinking about implementing new ideas, creating new dynamic products, or improving existing products or services

Reprographic organisations must be encouraged and enabled as  businesses to:

  • Invest in Research and Development (R&D) to harness the commercial opportunities of innovation and research
  • Work with universities and other academic institutions to exploit commercially directed research.
  • Adopt a more focused approach, tackling the barriers to investment in R&D and innovation
  • Access funding and support for business-led R&D and innovative projects

Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?

I often pause and reflect on the many changes that have taken place in my lifetime, some in the blink of an eye. I remember what it was like before Europe, and yes there was a time before computers, a channel was something on the TV and a social was a place to meet others in person.

Wales need to have plans, expertise and finances in place while having a propensity to decide how to invest in and utilize new technologies, and compete  on a global stage

Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?

Obviously, Brexit is a big issue, because of the uncertainty that comes with it. For certain things are going to be different however the future pans out. I have a theory that during such times, because people are promoting  or working extra hard to keep pushing the business forward that print and reprographics will be in demand whatever the future holds. As for the coaching and mentoring each one of us will need support as we walk the obstacle course to Brexit.

What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

Strengths: Friendly people , a ready workforce, cost less to do business here , many social and economic  government initiatives to encourage people to do business .

Weakness: Infrastructure needs attention, need to brand and market ourselves as a country more successfully.

What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?

Wales is already doing a lot to attract inward investment.

Availability of skills is a critical factor in any inward investment decision and Wales needs to build on its foundation by continuing the work I has started to  improve further and higher education establishments. It is a priority that we become yet more focused upon creating a skilled and employable workforce to meet potential investor needs.

There needs to be a moratorium on RED TAPE, it often takes far too long to get a decision, planning or even talk to people who can make decisions.

What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?

Undoubtedly as we evaluate the past it is evident that we must be even more ambitious. Continuing to believe in the benefits and dignity of work – not just for individuals but for society as a whole. The dignity of work must be a sustainable offer made to each of our citizens.

a decent opportunity in life is to build an economy that is stable, prosperous, competitive and equal.   A quality education and training system, accessible to all, is an essential tool in realising this goal.   As a society and  a culture we must adapt or be left behind. And we must also provide the next generation with the skills and resilience necessary to excel in a society that is undergoing rapid transformation. Everyone should expect their education systems, to prepare young people for a future of constant change.  Wales needs to aspire to having a world class education system.

How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?

Its as Vital  as the air we breath, because our success as a nation and a country depends on it. After all the youth of today are our leaders of tomorrow

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